Where has this year gone? Seriously. One minute it’s January and we’re all settling back into the regularity of work and thinking about our business ambitions to find X number of new clients this year.
And the next minute … it’s October.
Autumn has well and truly set in. The clocks will be going back in a couple of weeks. Halloween’s around the corner. And then, it’s the slippery slope to Christmas and New Year, before starting all over again.
So how do you feel about this year’s business vision? Have you accomplished your goals? Do you feel in control? Calm? Content with where your business is at?
Yes? Wow, well done! You definitely deserve a huge pat on the back. It’s not easy running, let alone growing, a successful business. So if you’ve managed to achieve that whilst not working crazy hours, running your home and having time for yourself, then you are exactly where I know a lot of us would love to be (so perhaps you can give us your tips in the comments section below).
If, on the other hand, you haven’t quite got there yet – you may be pleased with the direction your business is heading, but you’re feeling stressed. You’re working long hours. You don’t have much time for yourself and you’re not sure how to create that elusive work/life balance.
This is where mindfulness can help.
And no, I’m not talking about spiritual new age hippy stuff.
I’m talking about using a tested technique to create greater awareness. To help you concentrate on the ‘here and now’. To remove clutter from your head. To achieve greater clarity and focus.
What is mindfulness?
According to Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgementally.”
Psychology Today explains mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
But in fact ‘mindfulness’ isn’t anything new. Buddhists have been practising their own form of mindfulness for centuries. In the 70’s ‘mindfulness’, as it’s known today, was introduced to the West and today it’s used by doctors and psychologists when treating patients to overcome disorders, combat stress and improve well-being.
For those of you who want the hard facts, here’s the science bit:
Doctors saw grey matter within the hippocampus – an the area of the brain associated with learning, memory, self-awareness, contemplation and compassion – increase, when taking an MRI scan of participants who practised mindfulness.
In addition, the grey matter of the Amygdala, which plays a significant part in how stressful and anxious we become, decreased.
Imagine this work scenario … (and I know it won’t be difficult to do)
The alarm goes off at 6.30am. You drag yourself out of bed, head downstairs switch on the kettle, switch on your computer, get breakfast things out of the cupboard, start thinking about your to-do list for the day, whether the kids have any clubs they need ferrying to later, what you’re going to make for dinner …
All this is going on in your head at the same time.
Later that morning, you start going through your emails. The phone rings. The postman comes to the door. A client needs a last minute change to their presentation. Another client asks for a social media strategy. All thrown in amongst your already lengthy list of daily tasks.
So you get stuck in.
You start on one task, but then switch to the next when your client starts chasing. Then you have to stop that task to answer the phone … again. Nothing gets finished.
The next minute you look up and it’s 4pm and you don’t feel you’ve accomplished anything!
The kids will be home from school soon. You need to head out to grab some things for dinner. You didn’t make it to the gym … again.
Later that evening, you frantically finish the report that was due out. You respond to those emails that you didn’t get a chance to earlier. You update your to-do list for the next day, which seems to have grown – rather than diminished.
You roll into bed, exhausted. Stressed. Yet wide awake.
Any of this sound familiar?
How mindfulness can improve your work life
In business, mindfulness empowers you. It helps you have greater clarity and focus. It stops you dwelling on the annoyance of a client from yesterday, or worrying about whether a client is going to ditch you for someone else.
All of these things we have no control over. One is in the past, the other in the future. The only thing you can control, is what’s happening in the present.
In this exact moment.
Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University aptly states “We can spend so much time rushing from one task to another. We may think we’re working more efficiently, but as far as the brain is concerned, we are working against the grain. No wonder we get exhausted.”
As a Virtual Assistant, being mindful enables you to cut out the clutter. Stop worrying about what happened or what could potentially happen. Instead focus on that one project you’re working on. Give it 100% attention.
Conversely by doing so, you’ll produce better results in shorter periods of time. You’ll feel more in control and your clients will see greater value in you and be impressed.
Start practising mindfulness today
It’s not difficult to start becoming more aware. You can do it anywhere and I urge you to start today.
If you’re feeling stressed about work (or home) life, stop. Close your eyes and simply breathe in and out. In and out. Listen to your breathing. Listen to the sounds around you.
If you feel your mind start to wander, quickly reel it back in. And concentrate on breathing. The birds tweeting. The noise on the road outside. The dog barking.
Then translate this into your work.
Create your task list for the day. Start a task and concentrate on it 100%. If you need to switch the phone and your emails off for an hour whilst you work, do it. You’ll give so much more to the task and you’ll complete it in half the time. I assure you.
Remember, you’re in control of your business. Not your clients.
Once you start being more mindful, you’ll stop dwelling on past issues or worrying about losing a potential client in the future. Instead you’ll be living in the present.
Your stress levels will lessen. You anxieties about work will reduce.
In fact, your work will become more thorough, considered, polished. And your clients will feel more valued.
Progressive companies such as Apple and Google are now advocating mindfulness at work. Isn’t it time you do too?